This past weekend marked another milestone in the slow return of cruising. With two more ships returning to service, Carnival now has 11 ships — half of its U.S. fleet — sailing again.
Carnival Dream departed Galveston, marking the third Carnival ship (along with Vista and Breeze) to sail from the Texas island. Perhaps even more exciting, Carnival Glory sailed from New Orleans as the first ship to return to sailing from the port since the pause in cruising and the recent impact of Hurricane Ida. Since the storm hit, Glory had temporarily moved to housing workers helping with the relief efforts in the city.
With the addition of the two ships, Carnival is now sailing from seven different U.S. homeports. This includes Miami, Galveston, Seattle, Port Canaveral, Long Beach, Baltimore and New Orleans. The line’s first voyage since the pause in cruising returned July 3 when Carnival Vista sailed from Galveston.
“Having half of our U.S. fleet back in operations provides positive economic impact in our homeports and port of call destinations, along with giving our guests their much-needed vacations and helping our crew support their families back home,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “We couldn’t have accomplished this without the support of our travel advisor partners, business partners and port and destinations partners.”
All told, the following ships have now returned:
- Carnival Vista
- Carnival Horizon
- Carnival Breeze
- Carnival Miracle
- Mardi Gras
- Carnival Magic
- Carnival Sunrise
- Carnival Panorama
- Carnival Pride
- Carnival Dream
- Carnival Glory
Methodical Return in an Ongoing Pandemic
With only half of the fleet’s U.S. ships returning so far roughly two-and-a-half months since cruising resumed, Carnival’s return has been methodical.
Of course, when trips first began again, it was right as the Delta variant began impacting the United States. From a low of roughly 13,000 cases per day, the number of daily cases now averages about ten times that figure, although it is showing signs of a decline.
Due to the spread, Carnival has had to adapt to the changing landscape. While the first cruises back felt largely like sailing before pandemic (if a person was vaccinated), the rising number of cases has led Carnival to strengthen protocols on the ship. (See our review of the first Carnival cruise to return here.)
For instance, while cruises have sailed with 95%+ of passengers vaccinated since they returned, vaccinated passengers must now have a negative test before boarding. As well, masking rules are now in place for indoor areas of the ships, when they weren’t at the start.
It is also likely that the rise of Delta cases is leading to lower pricing for trips departing through 2021. As we explained here, price checks conducted in April 2021 (when vaccines were rolling out and cases plummeting) showed much higher prices for the same cruises compared to today. In many cases, prices have dropped 20-40%.
In other words, if you’re vaccinated and comfortable taking a cruise with protocols, there may not be a less expensive time to sail.
By the end of the year, Carnival’s schedule shows 18 ships returning to service in the United States. Carnival Freedom and Elation are set to begin sailing in October.